Last month’s U.S. Open was a memorable one for Jon Rahm and his family, as he made a late surge on Sunday to take first place and a prize of just over $2 Million. This was also true for Kevin Milner, who won roughly the same amount of money with a fantasy golf lineup that won two of the DraftKings Championship Series millionaire contests simultaneously. Milner’s feat was especially impressive given he only entered two unique lineups in the two contests ($10 and $100 entry fees), and one of them managed to beat the entire field in both tournaments. This past week, Milner joined us to share his perspective on that incredible accomplishment.
The DraftKings Championship Series is the king of competitions, minting 100 millionaires in the 2021-22 season. For more info on the series and all of the events, visit our DraftKings Championship Series Information page.
Meeting the Winner
Kevin Milner considers himself to be an amateur when it comes to playing DFS. He’s a 36-year-old from Kansas City who now lives in Dallas, a CPA by trade and he’s a golf fan who plays DFS mostly for fun. Golf is his go-to fantasy sport, and on a typical weekend, he’ll have just a few lineups in play — much like he had at the U.S. Open. He says he’s an avid golf watcher, and while he has some experience in both sports betting and DFS, he’s not running any sort of algorithm to make his picks.
“The two main things I look at are past course performance, and then their current form, you know, how are they looking right now,” Milner said. “And usually, I try to highlight some good value plays where like, do I think someone is the early side of their form, that might be about to hit a heater, so they’ve got good value.”
It’s clear from talking to Milner that he knows what he knows and also knows what he doesn’t know, which probably explains why he focuses on just a few lineups rather than having dozens of lineups in the mix for each tournament.
“Early on, a lot of my lineups were 15-plus percent in these big tournaments, every single play,” he said. “So you’re not really going against the grain on any of them... where I have seen the success is where I’ve kind of looked a little bit harder for those value plays where I’m trying to get the percentages sub-ten, even down to five or four percent.”
Looking at the winning U.S. Open lineup, perhaps the most amazing thing is Rahm wasn’t even in it. The six selected golfers did so well that Milner won both contests without even having the guy who finished in first place. This does happen on occasion, but it’s much more rare for it to happen when the winner is as popular of a golfer as Rahm is. Rahm was the tournament betting favorite and was around 20% owned, so it’s not like this was an event with an off-the-board champion.
“That’s the one that really kind of shocked me,” Milner said. “I didn’t even pick the winner.”
Milner had assumed his chances for DFS glory had ended when Louis Oosthuizen fell back to second place behind Rahm, but he quickly realized his lineup was still good enough even after Rahm had moved up to the top of the leaderboard.
A Crazy Sunday
Milner’s journey was also unusual for another reason: he was on a family vacation in Mexico during the U.S. Open and didn’t have phone service or access to a television until the last handful of holes during the final round. He knew heading into Sunday it was going to be a profitable weekend, but the realization that he was going to win thousands of dollars (at least) didn’t set in until the tournament was pretty far along.
“I finally got service back and I pulled up my lineup... and I saw I was in fourth place... I still kind of assumed I was going to get jumped,” he said.
From that point forward, Milner was all-in on the viewing process, both on the DraftKings app and on television, and it slowly started to become clear he was going to win. After Rahm’s move to the top of the leaderboard didn’t knock Milner out of first in either of the two tournaments, he really started to come to grips with what was occurring.
“I told my wife, I was like, ‘hey something might be happening right now,’” Milner said. “Because we were supposed to go to have dinner with my family, and I was like ‘I think we’re gonna be late.’”
As many DFS players probably know, the celebrations of wins are rarely instantaneous. Aside from the fact that it can often take a few minutes to realize what’s actually transpired, there’s always the worry that scores aren’t fully computed and the number on the screen may not be totally up to date. Milner says he was in shock for about an hour before it finally set in, and then he was finally able to let loose (and drink a little champagne).
“It’s funny because you go through progressions, right, like for me it was, ‘OK, there might be some stat corrections,’ and then I got reassurance that you know, I’m good, and then I see the money hit my DraftKings account and it’s like ‘holy [expletive],’” Milner said.
Milner says he’s fortunate to be in a position in life where he doesn’t “need” the money, but the winnings could still be life-changing in more subtle ways. He probably won’t be quitting his job or anything, but winning $2 Million relieves a lot of stress, and he has already found himself not sweating the little things as much over the last few weeks.
Looking Ahead to the Tournament of Champions
In addition to the $2 Million, Milner’s two first-place finishes also yielded two tickets to the DraftKings Championship Series Tournament of Champions. He says he’s playing a few more lineups than usual since the wins, but football season is when he expects to start to “prep” to become a better DFS player — he’s played DFS for most other sports but doesn’t consider himself to be particularly proficient at anything besides golf, at least not yet. The DraftKings Championship Series Tournament of Champions still doesn’t have an official date, but it’s likely going to be during the NFL season, and it will surely be made up largely of DFS players who have a lot more football experience than Milner does. Nonetheless, Milner is still somewhat confident he’ll be able to figure enough stuff out over the next few months to at least give himself a shot to do well in that prestigious event.
What’s Next on the Champ Series Calendar
The next DraftKings Championship Series event will take place this week with the next golf major — The Open Championship — which begins on Thursday, July 15. There are three millionaire contests for the tournament that are now live. For more info on those, and all of the upcoming events, visit our DraftKings Championship Series Information page.
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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.
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